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Bill Bird Shoes scoops award for 2nd year running!

Apprenetice shoemaker George Paish from Bill Bird Shoes in the Cotswolds scoops prestigious award
George being presented with his award by Conference organiser Tony Slinger and Bill Bird
George being presented with his award by Conference organiser Tony Slinger and Bill Bird

Apprentice shoemaker George Paish has walked away with a prestigious accolade just five months after joining Bill Bird Shoes in Blockley with no previous footwear experience.

The 26-year-old trainee from Moreton in Marsh was named the winner of the 2019 David Xavier Student Bespoke Shoemaking Award at the Independent Shoemakers’ Conference in Harrogate at the weekend (Feb 22-24). This is the second year running that the award has been scooped by a budding shoemaker from Bill Bird Shoes!

Apprenetice shoemaker George Paish from Bill Bird Shoes in the Cotswolds scoops prestigious award
Bill Bird Shoes apprentice George Paish from Moreton in Marsh was presented with a silver trophy, £200 cash and £200 in leather vouchers. He is pictured with his winning boots, handcrafted wooden lasts and portfolio, alongside a photo of the late David Xavier.

Not only were his leather Derby boots with suede and zip detailing the first pair he had ever made but this born and bred Moreton apprentice beat off stiff competition from two international graduates from the prestigious London College of Fashion and two entrants with Master’s Degrees in Footwear Design.

“I am delighted to have won as I really didn’t expect to. I chose the design as I wanted to create something different and eye catching that made people want to pick them up and look more closely,” said George.

“As the boots were made to my measurements I was able to experience the whole shoemaking process from both a client and maker’s perspective, which was a valuable learning experience and gave me an appreciation for the work we do.

“Having worked in a mixture of industries previously, from healthcare to a brief stint in joinery, it’s helped me realise I always wanted to work in an environment that allows me to be creative, practical and problem solving. Luckily I get to do all of these in the workshop every day!”

The David Xavier Student Bespoke Shoemaking Award entrants with their shoes.
The David Xavier Student Bespoke Shoemaking Award entrants with their shoes.

The award, in memory of Midlands’ shoemaker David Xavier, challenged budding shoemakers to make footwear to accommodate a medical condition. George’s boots accommodated high arches, rear foot equinus (where the upward bending motion of the ankle joint is limited), as well as a wide foot and high sitting toes.

Well done George, we are all really proud of you!

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Budding Bill Bird shoemaker wins accolade

Chris Thorne from Bill Bird Shoes (r) with his trophy alongside his dad Mick, who is holding the winning shoes.
David Xavier Award winner Chris Thorne from Bill Bird Shoes and runner up Adele Williamson.
David Xavier Award winner Chris Thorne from Bill Bird Shoes and runner up Adele Williamson.

We are so proud to announce that Chris Thorne of Bill Bird Shoes in Gloucestershire scooped the David Xavier Award at the 20th Independent Shoemakers Conference in Eastbourne recently – with his first ever pair of shoes.

The annual award, in memory of Midlands’ shoemaker and dear friend David Xavier, challenged budding shoemakers to make footwear to accommodate a medical condition.

Chris previously worked as an upholsterer in the vintage car industry for many years before joining Bill Bird Shoes. Although Chris has been making lasts here for a few years now, his winning entry, a pair of dark tan Derby brogues, the first pair of shoes he had ever made by himself.

Flowers in a boot Dave made at his funeral November 18th 2016. The boot held water!
Flowers in a boot Dave made at his funeral November 18th 2016. The boot held water!
David Xavier with Kate Bird and Carina Eneroth, Stockholm shoemaker to the Swedish Royal Family, who came to see David in his hospice a week before he died. We are a tight knit bunch, us shoemakers. Bill Bird is behind the camera.
David Xavier with Kate Bird and Carina Eneroth, Stockholm shoemaker to the Swedish Royal Family, who came to see David in his hospice a week before he died. We are a tight knit bunch, us shoemakers. Bill Bird is behind the camera.

Chris also produced an eye-catching portfolio describing the process he went through including his many mistakes and learnings along the way. He was presented with a silver trophy, £300 cash and £300 in leather vouchers.

Adele Williamson, an apprentice bespoke shoemaker at Tricker’s of Northampton, was named runner up. Adele’s entry was a pair of very elegant zip up the inside ankle boots to her own design.

Adele graduated with a BA from DMU in Footwear Design and Illustration in 2016 before being taken on by Tricker’s, which has been producing distinctive and carefully crafted shoes and boots since 1829. The contest attracted six entries and was a close run thing between the two of them.

Voting was made by the 80 delegates of the conference rather than by a panel. Each delegate had a little wooden last shape to tuck into a brown envelope next to the contestant’s entry.

Dave visited Bill Bird at our Cotswolds workshop about a month before he died. He, his wife Diane and his two sons came to deliver some machinery that we bought from his workshop near Redditch.
Dave visited Bill Bird at our Cotswolds workshop about a month before he died. He, his wife Diane and his two sons came to deliver some machinery that we bought from his workshop near Redditch.